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A Tale Retold – 1977

Once again he stood upon the packed dirt in front of his house. He lived there now as his father had once done. The land which had been worked for so long was not generous but it gave up enough to provide for himself and his growing family.

Often he had thought of ways to be freed from this life which began each day before the sun and ended only as the shadow of the mountain crept across the valley below. At times each day seemed like every other day. There were the fields which had to be tilled or planted or cleared. The fences which had fallen that had to be mended. The animals that had to be fed and looked after. And every day somewhere in all the work it began again and he found himself once again where he had begun. He moved of his own will and yet he moved with the pulse of the earth, turning through the seasons which set the activities of his day. Although his life was simple it was not always harsh, for there were the children and his wife. Now as he stood watching the last light of day how he wished he could do more for them.

It was time to go in. As he turned toward the house something across the valley shimmered and fell from his view. He turned to look again, the light grew, throwing brilliant rays of light and color. For a brief moment it shone like a jewel pressed into the mountainside. As it faded he thought perhaps here was a way he might break free from the life which seemed now to pull down so heavily upon him. He would go tomorrow, to the house of gold across the valley to speak to its owner for surely the master of a golden palace would be powerful enough to help him. His mind was set now, he would go in the morning.

He rose earlier than usual. He had not slept well. The night had been filled with dreams of how he would approach the master of the house and how his wishes would be fulfilled. Today there would not be time for the usual chores and besides he thought after the two or three days it would take to reach the house of gold all of this could be left behind. He stepped from the glow of the burning lamps into the still, darkness of the morning. Beneath his feet he felt the earth cool and firm through his well worn sandals. How he loved the morning when everything seemed so fresh and new.

He must hurry now if the would reach his destination by nightfall, already the distant clouds were tinted with the new day. Down the mountainside he went, walking on a path which wound through forests and meadows, alongside carefully tended gardens, past homes of people he knew only because their families had lived there for a long time. At midday he stopped to buy something to eat. He did not really want to stop but he had promised his wife that he would and so with the sandwich and a pint of juice he bought he set out once again. By late afternoon he had come to the foot of the mountain where his dreams awaited him. He was unsure of which road to take but it did not matter, he would wait. As he sat beside the road, he looked back to the mountain of his home now muted in the shadows of the evening. How happy he thought his life had been till now, but it was like the night which now covered this home and how much better he thought it would be to live in the brightness of day. There would be only a few more minutes to this day. He turned towards the mountain and there only a little ways from where he sat glowed the golden palace in the evening light.

He jumped to his feet, running. Up the mountain road he ran, following the curves of the mountain. Around one bend then another. At last one more turn in the road and he would be there. As he made the turn he stopped. For a moment there was only the sound of his breath and the beating in this ears. He stood there in the middle of the road watching as the last rays of the sun bounced from a window of an abandoned house.  It was awhile before he realized the golden palace which he dreamed about, had placed so much hope in, was but a house which someone had given up a long time ago. He slowly walked up to the house and wandered about until it was too dark to see. With all his hopes taken away so suddenly he could do nothing but lie down and sleep beneath the eaves of this decaying dream.

It was nearly sunrise when he was able to wake himself. He would have a long way to travel. How much longer it seemed now. But as he rose and looked across the valley there upon the side of the mountain which was his home, in the coolness of the morning he loved so much, a light grew in the distance. Brighter and brighter, bursting upon the mountainside in a brilliance that outshone anything he had ever seen before was his own home shining in the morning sun. He knew now how fortunate he had always been and all he wanted to do was return home.

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